Recently, I’ve noticed a bit of a disturbing trend in TV shows. It’s nothing new, but I’ve just become more aware of it, and it’s the casual misogyny that is always played off as a joke. Frankly, it’s toxic and normalizes treating women as subhuman, and it also lacks creativity and originality.
Everyone has heard jokes along the lines of, “Women are crazy when they’re on their periods,” “All women do is shop and gossip” or “Women are only good for cooking, cleaning and sex!” We can take a deeper look at jokes like these on TV, their implication and what it means in real life.
I’m sure most of you have seen “How I Met Your Mother” before. One such joke I found particularly disturbing is when Barney says to Ted, “The only reason to wait a month for sex is if the girl is 17 years, 11 months old.”
Now, the clear problem here is that he sees it as OK to prey on underaged girls as long as he doesn’t have sex until they’re 18. Technically, it’s not illegal, but it certainly isn’t moral, either.
A grown man shouldn’t have any business dating a teenaged girl, even if they aren’t having sex or doing other physical things. It’s emotionally manipulative because it creates an uneven power structure, and it’s borderline pedophilic.
“The Big Bang Theory” is another show guilty of such humor.
For example, in one episode, Sheldon tells a woman, “Oh, your poor dear. Your ovaries are squirting so much goofy juice into your brains, you don’t even know which way is up.” In another, he says women are like egg salad sandwiches on a hot day: full of eggs and only appealing for a short while.
Why is it necessary to reduce women down to their reproductive systems? It isn’t, but it’s an easy, lazy way for writers to make jokes when they can’t think of better material.
Now, add a laugh track after a famous, controversial statement like, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her” or, “A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10” or even, “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” and it just sounds like a joke on any given popular sitcom.
You can picture good ol’ Sheldon or Barney or any other number of characters making a joke that’s similar to this.
That’s what’s so disturbing. Saying such things isn’t considered acceptable by any decent human being in real life, so why is it acceptable on TV? If people constantly are exposed to jokes like this without truly analyzing it and thinking of the consequences, they’ll see this as normal, and when you see words like that as normal, you may eventually see the actions they lead to as normal.
Jokes that de-humanize a group of people only lead to further de-humanizing in real life.
I’m not saying don’t watch TV or don’t watch certain shows, but what I am saying is analyze the media you consume. Think critically about it.
Recognize that, while something may be played off as a joke, that doesn’t mean it’s funny or OK, and it doesn’t mean that people should act like that in real life.